Peter Sweeney has a history of drug and alcohol addictions. Now, at 54, he has turned his life around and he and his wife Gail are pastors at their church Fresh Encounters in Werribee. They talk with Dewi Sherry.

Peter, tell me about your childhood?

I grew up in Deer Park. I dropped out of school when I was 14 years old and I was drinking and smoking marijuana by 15. By 16 I was a full blown alcoholic. Drugs were an everyday thing. When I was 17 or 18, I started shooting up speed and joined a biker gang. By 19 years old I was a drug trafficker and was into heroin.

I knew everyone around the western suburbs, everyone in the drug scene. To me, I tried to use life as a party.

What made you come to Werribee?

I went to Cairns to get away from the crowd but that didn’t work as the crowd was still in me. I came back to Melbourne, I was completely broke and had nearly lost my mind. Someone mentioned to me about going to a church in Werribee. From that day at the church, I never looked back. I moved down to Werribee straight away.

How did you get past your drug and alcohol addictions?

For me it was spiritual encounter. When I first went to the church, I had lost my mind, I couldn’t think straight or write my name down. I just started praying and started asking for help and my mind started healing. I’ve got more than a life back now.

How long have you been in Werribee?

Twenty-four years. Werribee has always been our home.

What is your background Gail?

I came out of an alcoholic family, the only stable thing in my family was my mum who had a high esteem for education. Because of that I’ve become a counsellor and am involved with bible colleges. I help people with bad backgrounds and help them process their previous way of life and ways to move forward.

What have you done in Werribee?

We started working at the Salvation Army in Werribee. Within two years at their training college, we were sent out to Whyalla in South Australia to help a community there. We wanted to be there to help people that have gone through things such as drug addictions. We’ve now started a church called “Fresh Encounter”, at the moment we’re at the Old Shire Offices. Our aim is to be a part of the community and help people who need to change their lives.

What do you like about living in Werribee?

I love the people. We have such a multi ethnicity, that brings an abundance of life to Werribee. When I first moved here in 1993, Werribee was more like a town.

Peter, do you have a favorite place in Wyndham?

My wife and I both love Werribee Plaza. Second is Watton Street. It can be quite busy and yet it still has a beautiful laid-back country town look, it has never lost it’s own personal Werribee flavour, if that makes sense.